Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 July 2020

SpaceX rocket makes history with successful take-off

The two astronauts are heading to the International Space Station

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have taken off on the historic first space flight of a commercial company crew using Nasa's iconic base.

It was Nasa’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

The mission blasted off smoothly in a cloud of orange flames and smoke from Launch Pad 39A at Florida's Kennedy Space Centre.

The two astronauts are heading to the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth, in a SpaceX Falcon 9 capsule.

Nasa Mission control announced the launch: "America has launched a new era in human space flight."

In just two minutes 40 seconds the capsule was at an altitude of 80km and travelling at 6,600 kph.

President Donald Trump was at the launch.

As the rocket built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company thundered away from Earth, it ushered in a new era of commercial space travel.

“Let’s light this candle,” Mr Hurley said, using words used by Alan Shepard on America’s first human spaceflight in 1961.

It was the second attempt for lift-off after a late cancellation on Wednesday the mission came within 17 minutes of launching.

The launch comes as the US is suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and violent protests against the deaths of African Americans killed in police encounters.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity here for America to maybe pause and look up and see a bright, shining moment of hope at what the future looks like, that the United States of America can do extraordinary things even in difficult times,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, veterans of two space shuttle flights, wore their angular, white-and-black spacesuits.

In a tweet Friday, Hurley said his first shuttle flight was scrubbed five times for weather and technical issues.

But on Saturday, it was a successful take off and cheers from Mission Control.

Nasa had earlier in the week urged spectators to stay home because of the pandemic but prime viewing spots at area parks and beaches were packed.

Updated: May 31, 2020 12:02 AM

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